Cohousing project at Village Hill Northampton advances

Staff Writer
Published: 8/14/2018 12:22:32 AM

NORTHAMPTON — An Amherst developer is moving ahead with plans for a 28-unit cohousing community at Village Hill Northampton, taking up the mantle of a larger proposal in roughly the same area by a different developer that fell through.

The Sunwood Development Corp. project, approved last week by the Planning Board, would be one of the final residential pieces of the redevelopment of the former state hospital grounds into a mix of housing and business.

To be called Village Hill Cohousing, the complex would include 20 new residential structures creating the 28 units in a mix of single-family and duplex style homes. The residential buildings would surround a common building on the 6-acre site on the eastern portion of Village Hill’s north campus, northeast of the intersection of Ford Crossing and Olander Drive.

Cohousing involves people living in housing around a common building. Cohousing developments also contain shared open space, and neighbors collaboratively manage common areas in a fashion similar to condo associations, according to The Cohousing Association of the United States.

In Sunwood’s development, the cohousing would be organized around the common house, which will include community gathering spaces, dining and cooking facilities and an outdoor patio.

The project also proposes a small garden shed, workshop, and covered trash and recycling shelters, according to an application filed with the city’s Planning Department.

At its meeting last week, the Planning Board OK’d a so-called 40-R review, which is similar to a site plan.

Carolyn Misch, Northampton’s senior land planner, said that once preconstruction conditions are met, construction on the site can begin. Construction can’t start, however, until the 20-day appeal process has lapsed.

Village Hill Cohousing is a successor project to an earlier cohousing project proposed for Village Hill by Energy Positive Homes LLC. That project, originally permitted in 2015, fell through after Energy Positive Homes went bankrupt.

Misch said that MassDevelopment, the quasi-government agency overseeing developing of Village Hill, then tried to find another developer to go forward with a cohousing project, and that Sunwood Developers picked it up.

“For me personally, it was great,” said Jeffrey Squire, of Berkshire Design Group Inc., who worked on both versions of the plan, on the board’s approval.

Both Squire and Misch said that a number of people put deposits down for the cohousing project when it was helmed by Energy Positive Homes, and that they had proceeded to seek a developer to take up the mantle.

Squire estimated that he’d worked on projects on Village Hill for the last 14 years, and said that Village Hill Cohousing is the final major project that will be done there.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Squire.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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